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Yellowstone Won't Pursue Grizzly Bear That Attacked 10-year-old

A grizzly bear sow and cub in Yellowstone National Park.
Jim Peaco
National Park Service
File photo: A grizzly bear sow and cub in Yellowstone National Park.

Yellowstone National Park officials today said the bear that attacked a 10-year-old boy near Old Faithful yesterday was a grizzly. They also said they don’t plan to pursue or trap the bear.

The last bear attack in the park was in 2015, when a grizzly killed and partially consumed a hiker. In that case, the bear was trapped and euthanized.

I talked with Yellowstone public affairs specialist Morgan Warthin about the incident.

Morgan Warthin: At around 10 a.m. yesterday, so August 23, a family of four, they were from Washington, encountered an adult female grizzly bear a half mile up the divide trail which is located southeast of Old Faithful.

Nick Mott: What happened when they encountered that bear?

MW: The son, he ran away from the bear when it charged out of vegetation towards the family. And then the bear chased the boy, knocked him to the ground. And then the parents effectively deployed bear spray about five feet from the bear's face. And then after that, the bear shook its head and left the area.

NM: What sorts of injuries did the boy sustain? Is he alright?

MW: Well, what we do know is that the boy, who is a 10-year-old, he suffered an injured wrist, puncture wounds to the back, and wounds around the buttocks.

NM: What is going to happen to the grizzly that attacked the boy?

MW: Law enforcement and bear management staff, upon hearing about this incident, immediately responded to the area. They investigated it last night. And what we know is that they determined there was an adult female grizzly bear, coupled with at least one cub-of-the-year or yearling bear. What they also discovered was that the bears were likely foraging next to the trail when the encounter occured. Park Rangers do not intend to search for the bear since this incident, it was a surprise encounter with a female grizzly bear defending its cub.

NM: Did the family do anything right or wrong in how they dealt with this encounter?

MW: I've got to tell you that Yellowstone National Park, we applaud the family for several things. One is which they were travelling in a group. They were carrying bear spray. And then third, they know how to effectively use the spray during their emergency.

NM: What can other hikers learn from this experience?

MW: You know, I think there's a couple things. Most important is that all of Yellowstone National Park is bear habitat. And that means into the deepest part of the backcountry like into the Thoroughfare of Yellowstone to even the boardwalks around Mammoth Hot Springs. Given that, we ask all hikers to prepare for bear encounters no matter where they go. Anyone and everyone who comes to the park, they reduce their risk of a bear encounter by carrying bear spray. There's other things they can do as well, such as: be alert, hike in groups — just as this family was — of three or more, and do not run if you encounter a bear.

That’s Morgan Warthin, public affairs specialist for Yellowstone National Park.

Nick Mott is a reporter and podcast producer based in Livingston, Montana.
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